On the train, tired. Don’t want to get a book out, so I fumble for the Blackberry. I’ve already checked today’s news and Google Reader. There’s nowhere else to go and it’s not much fun seeking out new destinations with a wireless syrupband connection.
I look at the games included in the company Blackberry build. I am as underwhelmed as I was the last time I gazed into this small puddle of choices. I break out Klondike. It’ll pass the time. I was fascinated with Patience when I was younger even though it is virtually a game of following instructions that emerge from the cards; more tarot than tarot. Jonathan Blow could probably dedicate a whole seminar to the evils of the game.
I just want to get to the end of this journey.
But another begins.
* * *
The train is a permanent feature of my working day. It’s not something I can do without and I wish I was a little more productive during the commute. But a week after playing around with Klondike, I am still playing around with Klondike. It has elbowed its way into being a new permanent feature of my working day.
I lose more often than I win. I wish this was Braid-Klondike and I could rewind the cards back into position. I sometimes throw them away without thinking. I sense the game is lost in these careless moments.
But I continue to chase the brief bursts of euphoria when I manage to break into a stack of hidden cards that have been locked away for too long. This is what Lara Croft feels when descending into an old, dank tomb: turning those final cards reveal all the treasures I need.
Sometimes I continue to fiddle with a game on the walk home. If I finish it, before I pocket the Blackberry I ask Klondike to deal out a new game. Saves time next time I play.
* * *
Klondike follows me everywhere. To the toilet cubicle. When I’m running the children’s bath. Sometimes as I’m settling down for sleep. Occasionally while I eat the Blackberry is fondled beneath the table, an illicit relationship that is all about empty, pointless self-gratification and nothing to do with other people.
I am off-piste. I am in the deep end. I want to put Klondike away. But trying to go cold turkey only lasts so long. It is now habitual; there isn’t even any joy in it any more, it is just something I do. I pore over half-baked theories about the safest Klondike method, the one where the probabilities shine on me. But it feels no better than betting on horses based on their names.
When I’m busy I have no need of it, but when there’s a lull in the day and the Blackberry is near, the device clambers into my hand. This little monkey dancing a jig on my back. It lives in my neurons like Tetris or Klax, imposing its own order onto everyday things. I perceive the ghosts of columns that need to be demolished and cleaned away.
It feels unhealthy but I can’t seem to shake it off. How can I rid myself of this curse?
* * *
The illness comes on suddenly.
I felt a bit strange the night before but ignored it, as you do. While I shower and dress, my stomach quivers; it is not happy. Probably just a lack of sleep. It’ll be gone by the time I get to work. Failing that, lunchtime. Yeah.
On the train, the quiver transforms to nausea. Intensifies. I hold on. Make it all the way to Waterloo East. Where I’m meant to switch from train to tube. Clammy, almost shivering, I cannot go on. Phone in sick, turning back, sorry. Sit on the platform, sit down, sit down.
It subsides and I feel stupid. Should I have gone to work anyway? I hop on a returning train like I said I would. The train is empty. No one leaves London at this time of the morning.
The juddering and rocking of the train brings the sickness back again. I push against the seat in front, trying to wedge myself in. I want to feel still and not like a jug of water sloshing about.
Walk from station to home, subsides again. Sit at the table, have a hot drink. The nausea is gone but I do not feel right. I talk with Mrs. HM. I’m not sure what to do but I guess I feel tired. I should go to bed.
I sleep for twelve hours, alternating between hot cold and cold hot. I am summer and winter, the sun and the snow. This is not some simple quarrel with delinquent food, I am fighting something within me, something that wants to thrive.
In the evening, I get up for a couple of hours but I have little appetite and, exhausted, return to bed for a full night’s sleep.
It takes another day of random sleeping before I begin to feel human again. The illness passes.
I never discover what it was that I purged from my system. But I never play Klondike again.